Tips for Landscaping a New Home

Ideas for how to make your new house a home.


Architecture for the HGTV Smart Home 2013 is inspired by the old New England vacation homes that surround the area in Jacksonville Beach, FL.

Photo by: Wilson Baker/ Getty Images

Wilson Baker/ Getty Images

New Home New Landscape

New homeowners take notice, your landscape needs to be an early priority. Whether your home is brand new or new to you, landscaping is a key part of making it your own. Your landscape shows off your style and is your “welcome home” at the end of the day. Well done landscaping can quickly boost the perceived value of your home, and may inspire your neighbors to take on their own landscaping challenges. Enjoying a great yard is one of the best parts of owning a home. 


As the saying goes, if you want it done right, do it yourself...well not necessarily. Even if you plan on hiring out some or all of the work, you should have a basic plan for how your landscape will be used, and how it will look. Will you entertain guests? Are you looking for solitude? Is security a concern? Is there a swimming pool, patio, gazebo, fence, fountain or other hardscaping or water feature in your plan? What color combinations do you find appealing? How would you describe your style? The answers to these questions will help you define the parameters of your landscape design. Your needs and preferences should be the driver of the design process no matter who is drawing the plan. 


Budgeting is an often overlooked part of the landscaping process, both before and after the work has begun. Know how much you want to spend, what it will be spent on and how much landscaping costs. As with anything else, you get what you pay for. If you expect $50,000 worth of landscaping but only want to spend $30,000, you should pare down your plan or find more money. Beware of deep discounts; it never pays to cut corners because it means the job will not be done properly and failure will ensue. On the other hand, writing a blank check to your landscaper almost guarantees you will overpay. 


A master landscape plan is a helpful tool that can keep you disciplined and focused as you shop at garden centers and talk business with contractors. However, unless you plan to have the entire plan installed in one fell swoop, prioritization is another key point of discipline. Prioritizing the installation process helps you to bite off smaller chunks of the plan in a way that makes sense both aesthetically and financially. For example, Phase 1: installation of foundation shrubs, a shade tree, sod and seasonal color beds in front of the house; Phase 2: building a deck and playset with accent plants in the backyard; Phase 3: installing a swimming pool and extending the existing back deck. It makes sense to treat the front first because that is the most visible part of the yard. Planting trees early makes sense because they take time to grow. A pool only sees seasonal use and so it should be a later addition.


Installing the landscape is a straightforward process. In general, hardscaping (patios, decks, fountains, etc.) is installed first, followed by lighting and irrigation, trees, shrubs, perennials, sod and annuals. Though there may be slight deviations based on site specific issues, keeping with this order ensures that previously installed material is not compromised by ensuing work. When working with a landscape contractor, stay in constant communication regarding this progression and ask questions if you don’t understand. 

Follow Up

Once installed, there is always an establishment phase for plants and hardscapes alike. Pay close attention to watering requirements of new plantings. Also, understand the year-round needs for all of your newly installed plants: pruning, fertilization, winter appearance, etc. New irrigation systems must be monitored for leaks and coverage. Decks, pavers, retaining walls and other hardscape elements should be visually inspected for defects several times in the first year after installation.

Well Worth The Effort

Though the work of creating a new landscape may be tough at times, it rewards in many ways. Following good planning, execution and follow up practices ensures that you will pay a fair price for a landscape that does exactly what you need it to do, and that will stay healthy and functional for many years.

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